LETTER TO EDITOR: Foxy's disagrees with county board decision
Foxy's Bar & Grill strives to be a good corporate citizen, follow guidelines set out by local government and give back to the community while simply trying to make a living. We are certainly disappointed and very much disagree with the county board's recent decision to punitively restrict our liquor license, especially given the fact it chose not to wait two weeks (even though the county attorney recommended such) allowing us to return from overseas or out of state and share our side of the story.
It was stated Foxy's fails to comply with directives from Environmental Services Office (ESO). We have tried very hard to work with ESO. We received a variance to build a new parking lot to relieve congestion on County 89. The ESO board spent months (during the summer) sharing their concerns and asking us to change many things before granting approval. We spent thousands of extra dollars redesigning our entire parking lot to comply with every ESO directive.
In July, they told us to move our small portable stage. We complied. At the beginning of the summer, we talked to the sheriff's office numerous times and asked if there were noise ordinances we might be violating by having outdoor music, provided reasonable start/end times and volume levels. To our understanding, there were not.
To state that Foxy's has ignored compliance requests and doesn't care for established rules is simply not true.
Our liquor license map clearly showed approval to sell alcohol in our backyard. In our opinion, we violated nothing in that respect. Since we are outside city limits, and there are no noise ordinances (outside of reasonable operation), we feel having outdoor music is valuable and fun for both the tourist and local communities. Over two-thirds of the patrons attending "Why Not Wednesdays" were people living in this community year-round.
It was stated there were "numerous complaints" about our music. We checked. The sheriff's office incident reports from last summer state three occurrences. The first was a boat on the river (not Foxy's) and the other two showed the officer arrived at the event and found the music wasn't a disturbance.
Additionally, because the county board chose not to hear our side of the story, it doesn't know about the 300-plus people who signed a petition agreeing these events are great for the community. We absolutely respect our neighbors. So, we finished outdoor music by 9 p.m. and kept a reasonable volume level all summer.
It's ESO's opinion that our events are a shoreland violation — not because we endanger shoreline, but simply because they believe we are "expanding the scope of our business." Foxy's has operated at that location for over 40 years, under various owners. After speaking with some prior owners, it's clear there has been outdoor music/events there for decades.
It is our opinion the scope of our business has not changed and we are not in violation. However, given ESO's power, we also know that it would probably require a lawsuit to prove if we are correct. Everyone realizes private funds versus public/government funds in a court of law is a fight private business usually cannot win. Foxy's would be the financial loser, even if we were to win a court case.
So, if we do decide to go through the ESO variance process, we would kindly request this: The ESO board have "pro-business" awareness, let private businesses reasonably operate without inhibiting or over-regulating and address both "the letter of law" and "the spirit of law." We hope they do not choose to use shoreline ordinances as a mandate to control other internal operations of private business, such as restricting normal hours of operation, etc. as has been brought up by the board in the past.
We will work with ESO and county board to (hopefully) resolve this issue to everyone's satisfaction.